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Ask Craft Critique

Our first Ask Craft Critique post is here. You asked questions, our reporters have answers.


Q: I would love to know where each of your members shops the most to find the best deals! I am referring to mostly internet shopping since most of us will not live near you.


Jessica: For Scrapbooking Supplies I shop at AC Bailey Designs primarily where you receive free shipping on the 1st of the month with orders $35 or more.


Melissa: I shop at the Scrap In Style TV boutique. They have unique items, there’s tons of sales, and often have free shipping offers. Just create an account and you’ll be signed up for the email promotions.


Francie: One of my favorites is Peachy Cheap It’s an interesting concept for a site and there are several deals a month that I’m interested in. I’m not a regular scrapbooker. I buy them for journaling and altered art.


I have also had great deals and wonderful customer service from Memory Villa.


Amanda : For in person shopping I get a good deal by making good use of coupons. You can almost always find coupons online for 40% off at Hobby Lobby and Joann’s. Coupons for Michaels are on the receipts you bring home and through email if you sign up on their website.


Taylor : I do most of my internet shopping at Jacksonbelle Embellishments. She has a great selection of stuff. Lots of papers, ribbon, fun embellishments


Q: I am not a sewer AT ALL. I know nothing about sewing machines, but I love that look. What kind of sewing machine would be good for me, and how much should I spend?


Susie: She seems to need it for scrapbooking instead of sewing fabric and in any case, I wouldn’t really be able to recommend a specific machine other than to say that I think it is a good idea to get a nicer model than a cheap one, but one shouldn’t spend too much money on tools one may not really use.


Melissa: If you do want a sewing machine just for paper crafts I recommend the Janome Sew Mini. We actually have a previous review of it here. For fabric sewing, I like my Brother sewing machine, but I recommend going to a sewing store and trying out demo models to find a machine that’s right for you.


Fabrizio: Since you don’t want to start sewing a new dress anytime soon, I take it that you just want to add that homespun look threading a couple of mats to put on your cards or scrapbook pages ? Your best be would be to go for those easy stitch machine you can find in big retail stores. They usually retail for between $ 20-30 US. They’re very compact and you use them for the occasional stitch job. Looking on then net I found this very affordable one on Amazon.


Stephanie : I was also a non-sewer before July of last year when my husband bought me a simple Singer sewing machine so that I could use it in my scrapbooking.


I picked out my machine based on brand name and amount of decorative stitches. I decided on the Singer Esteem mostly because it was economical and practical. Sewing machines can get really expensive, so think about how you’ll use it: Will you mostly use paper? Will you do any fabric sewing? This machine works pretty well for both, but if I wanted to use it for sewing through heavier materials, I would probably try to go with a heavier model.


I think for scrapbooking, you will definitely be able to find a machine for less than $150. If you are willing to make an investment, you can spend more than twice that much for a really good machine that will last you a lifetime. Just do a bit of shopping around, read some reviews and I’m sure you’ll fine the perfect machine for you.


Q: I have always stored my stamppads upside down based on information gleaned from Lisa Volrath…This seems to be reinforced by the new Stampin Up pads…any info to back this up?

Sara: I have stamp pads that are literally years old (7, 8, 10…) that have been stored upright, and have had no problems with the ink remaining near the surface. My guess is that it has as much to do with the ink pad material and how well it is saturated as it does anything else.


Kristine: I don’t have anything ‘official’ to back this up, but I do agree that there is a definite benefit to storing inks in such a way that gravity works for you rather than against you. The biggest benefit? Saving money. Since gravity will always cause stuff – including the ink in your pads – to settle downward, it’s best to store them upside down so that the ink is settling towards the stamp surface keeping it nice and moist, rather than settling to the case. This means the pad won’t dry out as quickly, and you don’t need to re-ink as often. Just a caution though…Some stamp pads companies (e.g. CTMH and SU) have designed their ink pads so that the ‘pad’ is stored upside down when the pad is closed, and they swivels and flip over when it’s time to use it. So with these pads, you store the cases right way up – and the ink-pad is already upside down as it should be. Storing these types of cases upside down would of course put you back to working ‘against’ the forces of gravity.


Q: I see where many stampers are using Nestabilities for their layers. I must admit I’m clueless about this item. I haven’t taken the time to research it myself so I hope you can fill me in on the ease of use or why this over something else.

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I would like to know which “Nessties” are used most often and for the first time buyer, which set is best to get. Which would you get the most use from. I like the look of the ovals.


Sara: “Nestabilities” are “naked” metal dies for cutting cardstock and paper. They are made by “Spellbinders” and work in all manufacturer’s die cut machines. Spellbinders has gotten both smart and creative in making a series of dies in decreasing sizes that “nest” inside each other. And they have all manner of shapes and sizes: the basic ovals, circles, rectangles and squares; but also elongated rectangles and a variety of shapes that they call “labels”. They are super for making layered frames for your cards and your scrapbooks: cut one piece of cardstock in one size, and a second, complimentary color using one size smaller, and you have an instant, perfect frame for your picture or stamp image. You can also mix and match the shapes with scalloped shapes, to have a perfect scalloped border.

If you are a first time buyer, I would choose an oval, circle or rectangle (your taste preference) and a companion scalloped die in the same shape. Then you can get all kinds of combinations from a minimal investment.

Melissa: Craft Critique has previous reviews and information on Nestabilities here.

Taylor : If you like ovals, start with those. I’d get a straight edged (classic) set and a scalloped set, so you can layer them.

Q: I’m also very intriqued by the quilter’s new tool “accuquilt.” It acts just like a Sizzix big shot, but do you have to use that machine or can other die cut machines substitute fairly? Thanks again!

Susie: As for the AccuQuilt, I can’t tell if the dies it uses work with the other large die cutters like the ones by Sizzix. I did a little search and found that there are two AccuQuilt machines: The Studio and the GO!

The dies for these two machines are not interchangeable. The GO! is a lightweight, portable machine designed for the home quilter and it cuts 3-4 layers of fabric at a time. The Studio is very expensive and is designed for quilt shops. The Studio cuts 10 layers of fabric at a time. The AccuQuilt GO! won a Best Innovation award at CHA Winter 2009 . From what I am reading, people who own or have used the AccuQuilt are enthusiastic, but there is more fabric waste using their dies over regular rotary cutting. Additionally, the dies are expensive. Golly, it sure looks awesome the way that the AccuQuilt already cuts off the little dog ears on triangle sets!


Q: I love my new Fiskars fingertip craft knife, however cannot find a replacement blade for it. My Michael’s store carries the knife, but no blade. Please help! (I am in Canada, so an online resource would be great too!)


Melissa : The Fingertip Craft Knife takes regular refill blades 9601 and can be found at craft stores where the other craft knives are, just look for that number.


Fabrizio: The item manufacturer number is #96017197; in doing some searches I soon realise that it’s also the same code for replacing blades for the Metal Razor Knife from Fiskars, I found them available from Office Quarters for $1.98 US for pack of five blades. Although based in the USA they appear to ship to Canada too so you could stock on a few packs to justify the shipping.


Q: This is totally random but it has been bugging me and I can’t find any info anywhere. I even emailed Martha Stewart w/no answer yet. Why are some of her punch handles green and some white? Are they different or just changing the color. I like things to match and I have all white punches but if I am going to collect something I don’t want to mix colors if they are the same punch just different colored handles. Does anyone know why she did this? Do the green ones do something different than the white? ie emboss as well. I don’t know. It’s been bugging me to find out. I thought maybe the green ones are manufactured for WalMart and the White ones are Manufactured for Micheals? Maybe it’s just to make them exclusive to that store. Thoughts? Info? Thanks


Melissa: I haven’t heard this direct from any source, but I used to work at Michaels and we only received the white ones. It is my understanding that the green ones are part of the Martha Stewart Create line that is available in Walmart stores while the white ones are part of the Martha Stewart Crafts line available in Michaels and other stores.


Stephanie : The green Martha Stewart punches are from WalMart and the white punches are from Michaels. As far as I know, this is simply to distinguish the two by where they were purchased, as some of the stamps are EXACTLY the same except for the color. This may mean that the selection is different at each place, but they do exactly the same thing.


Q: I’d love to know which size of the xyron people are happiest with–create a sticker sizes (150) or the large economy size (900)


Kristine : Now I only own the smaller version so I might be a bit biased, but I personally use the Xyron Create-A-Sticker Model 150 “X” Dispenser A LOT! I use it most often when I’m dealing with titles/letters/shapes cut on the Wishblade that would be too fussy to adhere by any other means. It is small of course, and limited to items that are 1.5″ wide, but that in itself is why it works for me. As I said, it can be tricky to apply adhesive to items that are little and the “X” dispenser makes it oh-so simple. I admit that there’s been a couple of times where I’ve thought the larger unit would come in handy, but I can usually make due without it. It’s also great because it’s portable – and takes up very little space in the crop bag! For me, the “X” Dispenser is a must-have.


Francie : I love my large size xyron. I ended up giving the small one to my son to make stickers with. It was just too limited in size. If I didn’t get the item lined up just right it didn’t get coated because there just wasn’t that much to go around. And I really like using the laminating/adhesive sheets for some projects!


Q: When heat embossing, how do you prevent the paper from becoming warped? I even have this problem when I use heavy cardstock…I make sure not to overheat the image, I keep the heat tool as far away from the paper as I can and move it back and forth, etc. Just curious if others have this same problem?


Fabrizio : Actually, it’s the fact that you move it back and forth that keeps it longer from embossing and the paper gets hotter. You should emboss 3 to 4 inches away and keep it steady and as soon as you see the powder melt moving to the next bit left to emboss (you have to be quick). You should be done within 10 to 15 seconds for medium size image. You have to keep a watchful eye when you do this and you’ll see that you’ll keep your cardstock from warping to a minimum. Another tip is to put the image you’ve embossed, after it has cooled, under something heavy like an acrylic block to flatten it. Make sure the embossing powder has cooled though to avoid it sticking.


Q: I’ve been looking at Catholic saint bracelets and wondering how one would go about making one. Do they make wooden beads with a little bezel you can fill, or do you put a picture on a wooden tile and coat it in resin? Also, where might I find wooden beads drilled that way? I’m having a heck of a time.


Francie : You can buy predrilled mini dominoes or you can drill them yourself if you drill very slowly and carefully. Then gesso the area when you are going to attach your image, put a little Diamond glaze on the back of the image, lay it down, and coat the top of it with a nice coat of more Diamond Glaze. The glaze gives it a beautiful glassy look and seals it. Then string your bracelet. Just Google mini dominoes – regular or wooden, predrilled or not.

Q: I am also interested in the Copic markers &/or pens, but they seem really spendy. Is there a big difference between the markers and pens, and where can you find them for a decent price?

Amanda : Here’s another time when Hobby Lobby coupons help. If you can find the rare coupon that covers an entire purchase it can really help with the purchase of Copic Sketch.

Melissa: Here’s links to previous Craft Critique articles all about Copics.

Q: Is there anyway to totally coat a paper or card to receive UTEE so that it spreads and adheres evenly? I have tried several pads and to no avail…

Amanda : I find the best way to get an even coat of UTEE over a complete surface is to do several very thin coats until it looks the way you want it to look.

Q: i would like to see a FAQ or tutorial on digital scrapbooking. I am CLUELESS! Once you buy an image can you use it endlessly? What kind of program do I need? What do I do with it when I’m done creating the page? Print it myself? Send it to a lab? Like I said, I’m CLUELESS! But I want to learn.

Craft Critique : Stay tuned…we are working on articles all about digital scrapbooking!

Those were the answers from some of our reporting staff, but we’re sure there are others, so leave your answers in the comments section. Or, ask a question of your own and it will be put in our database of questions. We will try to answer reader questions at least once per month, so leave them in the comments or email them to melissa@craftcritique.com.

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